Water quality likely affected by tropical storm

Published 3:43 pm Friday, July 9, 2021

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Though this week’s Swim Guide water samples came back clean with one exception, Sound Rivers staff is warning that water quality may have changed because of Tropical Storm Elsa.

These samples were collected Thursday morning before the storm hit and Friday’s results may not accurately reflect post-storm bacteria levels in the water,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ environmental projects coordinator. “People should assume that lots of rain and flooding will increase the amount of bacteria in the waterways and should use extra caution if recreating this weekend.”

Of the samples taken before the storm, one site failed the Swim Guide test in the Tar-Pamlico watershed, testing positive for fecal bacteria exceeding state and federal recreational water-quality standards: Port Terminal in Greenville.

Boaters, swimmers and their pets should avoid the water or practice caution at all sites for the next few days, as exposure may come with an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections. 

Swim Guide is an international water-quality program conducted locally by Sound Rivers, an environmental nonprofit with a mission to keep North Carolina’s waterways fishable, swimmable and drinkable. Each week, a team of Sound Rivers’ volunteers gathers water samples at 49 popular recreation sites along the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, from the Raleigh-Durham area to the Pamlico Sound. The samples are then tested for the bacteria E. coli by Sound Rivers’ staff, and results are released to the public, providing an easy way to find out where it’s safe to swim.

Eighteen sites are tested in the Tar-Pamlico River basin: at Rocky Mount — Tar River Reservoir and Sunset Park; at River Road near Tarboro; at Greenville — Town Common, Wildwood Park, Port Terminal and Yankee Hall; at Washington — Mason’s Landing, Washington waterfront, Haven’s Garden Boat Ramp, Chocowinity Bay at Cypress Landing, Swan Point, Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation, Blounts Bay and Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing; at Bath — Bonner Point and Plum Point; and Belhaven — Pungo River at Woodstock Point.

Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by Grady-White Boats, the Water-Quality Monitoring Fund in memory of Gene Pate, UNC-Lenoir Health Care, Northwest Creek Marina, UNC Pavel Molchanov Scholars, Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Cypress Landing, ECU SECU Public Fellows Internship Foundation, Coastal Carolina Health Care, Restoration Systems, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, US Foods, and David Silberstein and Melinda Vann.

To sign up for Swim Guide notifications, go to www.soundrivers.org/swimguide or text “SWIM” to 33222 for weekly water-quality text updates. For more information about Sound Rivers, visit soundrivers.org.